Professor John Terry

Professor John Terry is Director of the EPSRC Centre for Predictive Modelling in Healthcare, and Associate Director of the University of Exeter’s Living Systems Institute. He has published over 60 pieces of original research, generated 3 patents, supported 15 individuals in securing personal research fellowships and generated over £15M in research funding. He was awarded an Ethel Raybould Fellowship by the University of Queensland in 2014 and a Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellowship by the University of Melbourne in 2015/16.

Since joining the University in 2012 as Professor Biomedical Modelling, he has built a team of almost 50 investigators, postdoctoral researchers, PhD students and professional services staff. His team are focused on the development and application of mathematical and computational methods for understanding the fundamental principles by which living systems operate and the disruptions to them that lead to disease. His personal interests are in neurology, neuroendocrinology and cardiology: for example, understanding how seizures emerge from apparently normal brain function and how disruptions to the brain can make them stop; how rhythms in hormone systems are generated, and how these lead to healthy and diseased states; and how arrhythmias in the heart start and how the heart can be treated to make them stop.

Working in close collaboration with clinicians and clinical scientists, his team’s work in epilepsy has generated significant international recognition. In 2014, properties of brain networks critical for the emergence of seizures were identified. It was further demonstrated that brain network alterations were a heritable feature (being present in both people with epilepsy and their unaffected first-degree relatives). This was highlighted as a breakthrough study in epilepsy by the Lancet Neurology. Additionally, in 2016 he developed a mathematical model that can predict with high accuracy regions of the brain that should be removed to ensure that seizures stop, generating world-wide media attention. Most recently he has developed mathematical models that can interrogate routinely collected electrical recordings of the brain and reveal susceptibility to seizures even in the absence of clinical features. This work has led to the formation of a spin-out company Neuronostics in 2018, focussed on diagnosis and prognosis of epilepsy, which has already received £500K in funding from Innovate UK and a commercialisation prize from the Epilepsy Foundation of the USA.

In the field of neuroendocrinology, he developed a mathematical model that proposed the origin of hourly rhythms in the stress hormone cortisol was due to the interplay between the pituitary and adrenal glands and not from the hypothalamus in the brain. This intriguing hypothesis was validated experimentally in the laboratory of Professor Stafford Lightman in 2012. More recently he has used mathematical modelling to identify a network of genes within the adrenal gland that governs adaptations in cortisol release in response to acute and chronic stressors and to predict how these responses are altered because of adrenal disease.

Recently he has also worked with cardiologists treating transient arrhythmias. Here he has developed mathematical models to reconstruct electrical recordings from the heart that are lost due to poor connections between electrodes and heart tissue. In a retrospective analysis of patients undergoing radiofrequency ablation therapy to treat arrhythmias the model was shown to improve the treatment in over 90% of cases. Building on this, his team are currently working with Biosense Webster to develop a Cardiac “GPS” to better guide surgery.